The Square of Saint Mark’s, Venice, 1742/1744, by Canaletto (Italian, 1697–1768). Published with the National Gallery of Art.
Canaletto (1697–1768) was the most renowned view-painter of Venice in the eighteenth century. He recorded the unique lagoon city in numerous paintings that were widely collected by British and French aristocrats. Here, the artist represented the political, religious, and social center of the city, the Square of Saint Mark’s, one of the most striking architectural ensembles in Europe. On the left, Canaletto placed the eleventh-century Basilica of San Marco, with its rich mosaic decorations. In the center is the Ducal Palace, seat of the ceremonial head of Venice, the doge, as well as the various councils of government. To the right is Sansovino’s Renaissance guardhouse at the base of the bell tower, recognizable along the edge of the canvas. The tower casts a shadow across the square and the basilica, indicating that it is late afternoon on a bright, sunny day and time for the merchants to pack up their wares for the night. In the lower left, the letters ACF stand for the artist’s initials and “fecit,” the Latin for “made it.”
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